Presentations are boring and ineffective. It’s hard to keep your audience engaged for the entire duration of your presentation, and it’s becoming difficult to convince customers with tired, old data. If you want to sell your product or idea effectively, you have to tell a story – but many people don’t know how to do this. You need more than just a compelling message — you need an emotional connection.
In this article, we’ll teach you 8 storytelling techniques that will help you present an idea or product with thoughtfulness and clarity so that your customers will be completely engaged the entire time. Follow our advice and learn how to tell a story like a pro!
How to be good at storytelling with these 8 storytelling techniques
Monomyth (aka Hero’s Journey)
As the name implies, a “monomyth” is a story that embodies the archetype of a hero’s journey. This journey is a basic pattern that we can see repeated throughout literature and film for thousands of years. Monomyth, however, was first introduced in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
It is a model that goes like this: The hero starts in a normal situation, facing an ordinary problem. He is met with a series of challenges, each one more difficult than the previous one. The hero grows stronger during the journey, eventually reaching a final confrontation with the main antagonist. At the end, the hero is rewarded for his efforts.
Both Star Wars and The Lion King are excellent examples of monomyth structure.
The Hero’s Journey consists of 12 steps:
- Ordinary World
- Call to Adventure
- Refusal of The Call
- Meeting the Mentor
- Crossing the Threshold
- Tests, Allies, Enemies
- Approach to the Innermost Cave
- Reward (Seizing the Sword)
- The Road Back
- Return with the Elixir
You don’t need to use all steps above to craft your own Hero’s Journey story. Familiarise yourself with each step and decide which step(s) can apply to your own adventure. If you’re still uncertain about whether Hero’s Journey works for your story, ask yourself a few more questions:
- Did you ever embark on any journeys?
- Challenges to overcome?
- Are there times when you doubt yourself?
- Have you ever had a mentor who helped you through a difficult time?
- Could you share a life lesson from your story?
- Did the experience push you beyond your limits in a big way?
- Did someone guide or assist you?
- Were you frightened, worried, or anxious?
- Were there any points of no return?
- Have you been forever changed by your own journey?
If you answer Yes to any of the questions above, then it is a good sign that you can apply Hero’s Journey to your storytelling presentations.
Use these steps as a guide to determine what elements to include to tell a compelling story that inspires your audiences and leaves them with new insights and knowledge that they can apply to their own lives as well.
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The Mountain is a story structure that is often used in TV shows and movies.
It consists of five parts:
- The introduction is when you set the scene and introduce the protagonist to the reader/audience.
- The conflict is where you introduce your antagonist and explore what they want to achieve.
- Rising action is where you have an event that pushes your protagonist into taking a big risk or making a difficult decision.
- The climax is where your protagonist has an epic battle with their antagonist and finally overcomes them.
- Falling action encompasses all of what happens after this epic battle until we reach a resolution or another turning point for our protagonist in their story
While it is similar to the Monomyth technique, the only difference between them is that the ending is not always happy.
Aimee Mullins describes her personal journey from not having fibona bones in her lower legs as a child to becoming an actress, model, and athlete in her mountain-structured speech.
Why is it so impactful?
- Focuses on overcoming challenges
- Arouses the curiosity of the audience by building suspense
- Brings your audience to a satisfying conclusion to encourage them to take action
The Nested Loops
This is a storytelling technique where you layer three or more narratives within each other. Put your most important story – the core of your message – at the center, and use the stories around it to elaborate or explain it.
The structure of Nested Loops is as follows:
- Begin story 1 which is the main point of your story
- Interrupt story 1, and start story 2
- Interrupt story 2, and start story 3
- You may interrupt and begin as many stories as you like.
- Towards the end of your story, you tell the story fully, embedding information and suggestions, then move on to the next step
- Your stories should be completed in reverse order. If you started three stories in total, then you finish story number 3, then story number 2, then story number 1
In Simon Sinek‘s TED talk, he shows how successful organizations place the ‘why?’ of what they do at the center, surrounded by the ‘what?’ and ‘how?’. Using nested loops is an excellent way to convey this message, giving your audience a true understanding of your identity.
Sparklines were introduced by Nancy Duarte, and they are well suited for inspirational speeches and texts. This technique is explored in great detail in her book Resonate and how it is used in speeches such as Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch presentation in 2007.
Basically, it involves presenting a bilateral and linear storyline, whereby the tension between these two poles reveals a better path, offering a solution to the conflict. The storyline moves from an opening to a conclusion with constant back and forth between real and ideal, and it ends with a convincing call to action motivating change. Providing a future reward will motivate your audience to push for it and convince them it’s worth the effort and will meet their specific needs, not just your own.
It is best used when you want to persuade people to take action, like Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch or Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
In Medias Res
In Medias Res is a story that has to be set in the present, but can be told in the past or future. The story begins in the present, then jumps into the past or future, and ends in the present again, with the main character coming back to the present to resolve whatever conflict was created.
Using In Medias Res in your story is as simple as following these six steps:
Step 1: Start by choosing a pivotal, emotional scene to serve as your In Medias Res opener
Step 2: Develop a plan for how to present the backstory that precedes your main plot
Step 3: Make sure your opening is crucial to your plot
Step 4: Make readers curious about how events led up to this point
Step 5: Check that you aren’t info-dumping
Step 6: Write an intriguing first line
The above steps are described in detail in In medias res: 6 steps to start stories from the middle article.
Too often, we get stuck in telling a single, linear story and forget to shine a light on the people or ideas that helped us discover our path.
Converging Ideas in storytelling is a technique that is essential to make good stories. The technique is about the way the story moves from one idea to another to make the story more cohesive or entertaining.
The technique is similar to Nested Loops, where two or more stories are combined to make a simple and powerful conclusion.
What are the goals you can accomplish with this storyline?
- Demonstrating the development at a certain point in history
- Showing how symbiotic relationships are formed
- To tell how two different things came as one idea
- To illustrate the individual steps of the overall process
- To demonstrate how great minds came together to solve a problem
Tips for using Converging Ideas in your presentation:
- Keep it simple. If they don’t understand, they’ll stop listening
- This is an ideal technique for company formation stories
- Allow each story its own time in the spotlight
- Make sure to connect the dots and emphasize the benefits of the collaboration
One example of this technique is Steven Johnson’s TED talk, where he explains how some of history’s best ideas came from collaboration
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The False Start (Plot Twist)
The false start is a technique that can be used to make sure your content is more interesting. This technique involves starting an article with a statement that will seem like the article is about one topic, but by the end of the first paragraph, it becomes clear that you were actually talking about another.
By using this technique, you can keep your readers on their toes by adding plenty of unexpected content.
In J K Rowling’s Harvard Commencement speech, when she talks about her parents’ expectation and her life in university, audiences expect to hear her success story after graduation and her writing career. However, she goes on and talks about her failures and how the failures have created a strong foundation for rebuilding her life.
Some examples in movies include Psycho, The Sixth Sense, Twilight Zone Show.
The Petal Structure
The purpose of the Petal Structure Technique is to make a story more memorable and digestible to the reader.
The petal structure technique is a narrative strategy where you create a story in a circular or triangular shape, much like the petals on a flower. You start with an introduction and then work your way around the circle or triangle, adding details as you go. Each detail builds off of what came before it, giving readers an organic sense of storytelling and making the message become stronger.
This storyline is often used at conferences, where different speakers share stories about the same topic. Anecdotes and examples are often used within the petal structure as well.
Tips for using Petal Structure in your presentation:
- First, explain the individual stories.
- Each story has a complete narrative even if it paves the way for the next.
- Show the audience how all these stories relate to each other in order to demonstrate the importance of the message.
Get your story ready!
Finding which story to tell is hard. If you always crack your head to pull out stories to tell, you are not alone. A good idea is to identify the message and then come up with a story that complements it.
You should use your own stories first. Choosing an event that happened in your life will help the audience relate to you better. You can use other people’s stories if you can’t find them from your own past.
Once you identify the message and stories to share, you can then apply one of the storytelling techniques for presentations mentioned above to create an engaging and compelling speech.
I am interested in hearing about the stories you will share in your next presentation in the Comments section.